Responding to an Essay
A response is a common writing assignment that often accompanies a summary. Once a
writer has summarized a piece of literature, the writer may be asked to respond to
it. Unlike a summary, a response is a subjective opinion about the piece and, as such,
can include opinions and personal experiences as long as they are supported.
The key to writing a good response is to always be specific and to support any and
all points made. What, specifically, from the essay are you responding to? And how
and why, specifically, do you agree or disagree with this point?
In a sense, writing a response is similar to writing a detailed argument essay. An
argument essay involves laying out a debatable claim (thesis) and supporting it with
a variety of evidence. In a response, your thesis is your overall opinion of the essay
you are responding to (which is certainly debatable) and should be supported in a
similar manner. Be sure to support every point of response with personal experiences,
examples or facts obtained from research.
Here is a list of some common ways to respond to an essay:
- Agree or disagree with the author’s main point or thesis. This should almost always be the initial basis for a response. For example, Smith’s
thesis that excessive television viewing has led to a denigration of personal communication
- Agree or disagree with the extent to which the thesis is made. Example: While Smith is correct in asserting some of the problems associated with
excessive television viewing, he oversimplifies television's effect and fails to address
other potential causes.
- Agree or disagree with specific points that are made that relate to the thesis. Example: While Smith’s overall thesis is justified, he takes his argument too far
with several points made in paragraph No. 4.
- Agree or disagree with specific evidence that is offered in support of the thesis. Example: Some of the evidence offered by Smith lacks credibility.
- Agree or disagree with the relevancy of the overall topic. Example: Not only is Smith’s claim correct, but also the issue should be expanded
and discussed further as new technologies emerge that have a similar effect on society.